What do we learn indirectly of the home life of the Ewell family in chapter 17 of "To Kill a Mockingbird"? Its in chapter 17

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gpane's profile pic

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We learn that the Ewells live in absolute squalor which they have become habituated to over generations. However, after an extended description of the unseemly cabin and yard where they live (which is contrasted with the similarly poor, but infinitely more clean and decent living-quarters of the blacks), we get a hint of something different:

One corner of the yard, though, bewildered Maycomb. Against the fence, in a line, were six chipped-enamel slop jars holding brilliant red geraniums, cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson, had Miss Maudie deigned to permit a geranium on her premises. People said they were Mayella Ewell’s.

This gives a clear hint that Mayella, at least, does strive to impart some brightness to her surroundings, and the image of the beautiful, 'brilliant' geraniums is a startling detail in the otherwise dreary yard. in this respect she is even compared to the dignified,good-hearted Miss Maudie. She is probably the only Ewell who attempts anything in this line.

Mayella's geraniums are symbolic of her wish for better things in her world, and shows that there is at least one Ewell who, in the daily grind of their sordid home life, has a certain appreciation of beauty. However, any such attempts to beautify her surroundings seem doomed to fail. The conditions of her life in general conspire to drag her down, when she is forced to falsely accuse Tom Robinson of rape at the behest of her vicious, lying father.

ms-mcgregor's profile pic

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We learn that Mayella Ewell is probably an abused young girl who is forced to take care of the rest of her siblings while their father is away each day. The family is poor and uneducated. The most important thing we learn, though, is that Mr. Ewell is left handed. Attitcus has already established that whoever hit Mayella was also left handed. This suggests to Scout and others that Bob Ewell may have been responsible for the bruises on Mayella's face. Tom Robinson is physically incapable of making them because his left hand is useless.

zumba96's profile pic

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Mayella is abused and most likely sexually abused as well. Her father does not respect her and causes her to be scared. Also, whoever beat Mayella must have been left handed and Tom was right handed. Atticus got all the proofs which showed that Bob was the real criminal, but because of the view held by society, he was spared. 

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